Ma­cao packs a big punch

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By MUR­RAY GREIG mur­ray­greig@chi­

Ma­cao, which long ago eclipsed Las Ve­gas as the world’s No 1 gam­bling desti­na­tion, is now poised to usurp Sin City as the planet’s pre­mier stage for big-time box­ing. “It’s no stretch to say that the fu­ture of box­ing is China; we have found a new home in Ma­cao and we couldn’t be hap­pier about it,” Top Rank pro­moter Bob Arum said on the eve of the Nov 24 ‘Clash in Co­tai’ card head­lined by Manny Pac­quiao vs Bran­don Rios.

The fight, which aired live in more than 120 coun­tries and re­gions, not only show­cased Pac­quiao’s re- emer­gence as a global su­per­star — it spot­lighted how and why the 15,000-seat Co­taiArena at the Vene­tian, the flag­ship casino of Sands China Ltd, is fast be­com­ing box­ing’s equiv­a­lent of Cae­sars Palace, the MGM Grand and Madi­son Square Gar­den all rolled into one.

“Ma­cao has be­come the cap­i­tal of the box­ing world, and a lot of that is be­cause of this venue,” said Pac­quiao’s trainer, Fred­die Roach.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more per­fect place to hold a big fight. There’s not one bad seat in the place, and when the crowd gets worked up it sounds like the roof is go­ing to come off.”

Arum was so im­pressed with the Vene­tian’s com­mit­ment to the three cards it hosted this year that he pulled the trig­ger on an­nounc­ing that Co­taiArena will be the site of another in­ter­na­tional fistic ex­trav­a­ganza on Feb 22.

“We are call­ing it ‘Ring of Gold’ and it will re­sem­ble the first two shows we did here that were built around (twotime Olympic gold medal­ist) Zou Shim­ing,” said Arum.

“We will have three gold medal win­ners from the Lon­don Games, head­lined by Zou in his first eight-round bout. The oth­ers will be Ry­ota Mu­rata, the mid­dleweight from Ja­pan, and Egor Mekhont­sev from Rus­sia, the light heavy­weight cham­pion.

“There will also be a cou­ple of world ti­tle fights on the show.”

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial es­ti­mates, Ma­cao raked in a stag­ger­ing $38 bil­lion in gam­bling rev­enue last year — six times more than the Las Ve­gas Strip.

With that kind of money float­ing around, any­thing is pos­si­ble ... par­tic­u­larly when part­ners like Top Rank and the Vene­tian com­bine their ex­per­tise.

“Here at the Vene­tian there is never any ques­tion when you ask for some­thing to be done,” Arum told the Las Ve­gas Sun. “Money is vir­tu­ally ir­rel­e­vant, even when you say some­thing is go­ing to cost a lot ex­tra.”

Even­tu­ally, of course, Arum would like to pi­o­neer pay-per­view box­ing in China, where the profit po­ten­tial fig­ures to be astro­nom­i­cal. But even if that never hap­pens, Ma­cao will con­tinue to at­tract the big­gest names in the sport.

“Box­ing is com­ing back into the main­stream of Chi­nese sports in a big way, thanks to Zou Shim­ing and a new gen­er­a­tion of home­grown tal­ent,” said Arum.

“We think Ma­cao and the Vene­tian will be the fo­cal point for that growth for many years to come.”

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